Joyce Klein had only planned on working at Willow Ridge for a few months. She has found the experience so deeply rewarding that now she can’t even think of leaving.
“I lost my husband to cancer in 2016,” Joyce said softly. “He was just a beautiful person.” An 8th grade teacher at Allen East in Lima, Joyce arrived home by 3:30 p.m. and worried about spending the long evenings alone.
“My three children are grown and I knew the evenings would be very long,” Joyce added. “I saw the ad for part time help at Willow Ridge and decided to give it a try. The job started at 4 p.m., so it worked well for me, but I only planned to do it until I could better cope with the loss of my husband . . . probably a few months.”
Tears came to Joyce’s eyes as she explained, “I never expected how much these people would do for me.” She tells of meeting a resident who lost her husband the same time that Joyce did. Although the elder recently passed away, they talked a lot and became good friends. Then there was another elder whose father was a teacher. “When I arrived at work, he’d always ask ‘How was school?’”
“I think I give the elders at Willow Ridge another glimpse of the outside world,” Joyce said. “They love to hear stories about my class and see pictures of my new grandchild. I had only planned to stay a few months and now I don’t think I could give it up!”
At Willow Ridge for a little over a year, Joyce works at both the Frieda and Betty Houses. Last summer, she served as a driver for elder trips to Wal Mart in Ottawa. Originally from Ottoville, Joyce grew up on a farm and learned to work hard. She worked at Louisiana Pacific in Ottawa for 14 years before the company closed its doors. Then she returned to school to become a teacher, so she has a lot of “real world” experience to share with her students.
As an example of Joyce’s dedication to serving both teenagers and elders, she accepted the job of organizing the 8th grade annual trip to Washington, D.C. when no one else would. She reasons that the students need to experience a big city and accompanies them on the three-day trip. As for her “second job,” she recommends working at Mennonite Home Communities of Ohio to those who want a fulfilling experience and new relationships.
“Here at Willow Ridge, it’s a family unit. I can’t leave!”